How Sweet It Is! Honey May Cure What Ails You
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide. For decades doctors and the livestock industry have dispensed the precious drugs freely. Other factors, such as the widespread use of unnecessary antibiotic soaps, have also contributed to the rise of drug-resistant “superbugs,” which no longer respond to treatment with common antibiotics. In some cases, there are simply no drugs left that can overcome these disease-causing microbes. Infected patients are dying for lack of effective antibiotics, and plenty of healthy folks are worried. Will we soon find ourselves back in the pre-antibiotic era, vulnerable to the simplest of infections, which could lead to serious illness, or even death?
Modern antibiotics are among the towering achievements of the 20th century. It should come as no surprise that many common antibiotics have been derived or inspired by compounds found in nature. Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, is an antibacterial weapon produced by a type of mold. Most subsequent antibiotics have been synthesized in laboratories by tinkering with chemicals already found in nature. But many of these once-powerful wonder drugs are quickly becoming obsolete. We’re victims of a sort of natural arms race. Plants, insects, and fungi produce compounds tailored to kill deadly bacteria. Bacteria respond in kind, adapting to these compounds, in an ever-escalating arms race, as each seeks to gain the upper hand.
But there’s hope. According to information presented recently at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society, a common food may hold the answer. Folk medicine has never lost sight of the medicinal properties of honey. But modern medicine has largely ignored it. Until now. “The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. Honey also interferes with a sort of chemical communication network bacteria use to join forces and coordinate efforts. By rendering individual bacteria silent, it’s possible to make them less toxic. It can also improve bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics.
Numerous chemicals contribute to honey’s effectiveness against microbes. Not least is its content of antioxidant polyphenols, from plants. Compounds such as phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ellagic acid, and numerous flavonoids, are all potent antioxidants. Previous research has shown that another component, contributed by honey bees themselves, is a protein called defensin-1. This unique protein has significant antibiotic activity. Honey has been used in various folk medicine practices for thousands of years as a wound dressing. The practice is catching on in Western medicine. But research suggests its usefulness could extend beyond mere wound dressing. According to Meschwitz, studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey.